Despite what's happening in Canada and Toronto at the moment ( the Federal by election, and the Stephen Harper + Mike Duffy + Rob Ford scandals), the timbre of the political arena in Denmark feels much different. Citizens of the Copenhagen municipality recently placed their votes and I couldn't help but pay notice to their well designed campaign posters. A face-to-the-name, the candidates are attractive, diverse, and many are young. My recollections of campaign posters in Toronto are not like this.
Contemplating politics and it's relationship to communities, I believe these campaign posters are a reflection of this dynamic and healthy city. The success of a society isn't just in progressive and productive government (free of corruption), but engaged and active citizens. In Copenhagen, people seem to feel an accountability to their own quality of life. Denmark has been crowned the happiest country in the world. So I read this article on why this is and highlighted some factors below.
Collective responsibility and belonging as a civic right.
Denmark is a society where citizens participate and contribute to making society work. More than 40 percent of all Danes do voluntary work in cultural and sports associations, NGOs, social organisations, political organisations, etc. There is a wealth of associations: in 2006, there were 101,000 Danish organisations -- worth noting in a population of just 5.5 million.
Danes prioritize gender equality.
The Nordic countries were also early starters in providing women with the right to vote (Sweden in 1919, Norway in 1913, Iceland and Denmark in 1915, Finland in 1906). In Denmark, Sweden and Norway, political parties introduced voluntary gender quotas in the 1970s, resulting in high numbers of female political representatives over the years. In Denmark, in fact, this quota has since been abandoned as no further stimulus is required.
50% of people in Copenhagen ride bikes.
Researchers found that for every kilometer traveled by bike instead of by car, taxpayers saved 7.8 cents (DKK 0.45) in avoiding air pollution, accidents, congestion, noise and wear and tear on infrastructure. Cyclists in Copenhagen cover an estimated 1.2 million kilometers each day –- saving the city a little over $34 million each year.
We've been here for a month now and admire all that Copenhagen has to offer its inhabitants. It's like a dream to so easily bike around the city. There is major support for new parents and families, the city remains active and jovial throughout the harsh winter months, and the citizens are collectively conscious and considerate of each other and the environment (Denmark is the top ranking country for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while Canada is ranked one of the worst). I will be returning from my scandinavian trip inspired by their cosmopolitan lifestyle and I look forward to being in Toronto again with an enlightened perspective. Toronto is a great city, but we can always do better.